As Israel shoots protesters, Egypt helps tighten Gaza noose

Palestinians protest Israel's ongoing siege on Gaza near the boundary fence east of Khan Younis, southern Gaza (Mohammed Dahman - APA Images)

Tamara Nassar

The Electronic Intifada  /  August 26, 2021

Israeli occupation forces injured 14 Palestinians in the Gaza Strip on Wednesday. This came after the Israeli army ordered its forces to act “more aggressively” towards Palestinians who attempt to escape from the besieged territory or resist its soldiers.

Hundreds of Palestinian men, women and children peacefully gathered near al-Awda refugee camp, east of Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, to protest Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza and its recent attacks on occupied Jerusalem.

Israel’s 14-year siege is a relentless attack on the entire civilian population of more than two million people in Gaza, half of them children.

Along with Israel’s military attacks, the siege has destroyed the economy, degraded basic infrastructure, prevented people from obtaining life-saving medical care and isolated Gaza from the rest of Palestine and the world in general.

Israeli snipers deployed on sand berms at the boundary with Gaza fired live ammunition, rubber-coated steel bullets and tear gas canisters at demonstrators.

Among the injured was journalist Taha Raafat Baker, 32, who was hit directly by a tear gas canister in the leg, as well as a child, Al Mezan, a human rights group based in Gaza, stated.

Five of the injured were shot with live ammunition.

Israel’s attacks on peaceful demonstrators came even though “the level of violence was largely kept in check” by members of Hamas, The Times of Israel reported.

Succumbed to wounds

Israel’s gunfire claimed the life of a Palestinian man who was injured during protests in the Gaza Strip on Saturday.

Osama Khaled Dueij, 31, died on Wednesday to wounds he sustained when Israeli snipers shot him in the leg.

Israeli forces injured more than 40 Palestinians, including at least 24 children, during protests that day.

Dueij was a member of the Qassam Brigades, the armed wing of Hamas.

His picture circulated through local media after his death.

Egypt’s complicity

Egypt responded to Saturday’s protests by deciding to step up its assistance to Israel in collectively punishing the entire population in Gaza.

As of Monday, Egyptian authorities indefinitely shuttered the Rafah crossing, the Gaza Strip’s only passenger link to the outside world not directly controlled by Israel.

The Salah al-Din gate, through which Egypt allows limited goods to enter Gaza, is closed as well.

Due to the current closure, hundreds of Palestinians are now stuck in Egypt, with some in dire circumstances because they lack the funds to find accommodation until the border reopens, the Palestinian Human Rights Organizations Council stated.

Thousands of other Palestinians who are currently visiting family in Gaza, are now unable to leave and resume their study or work activities abroad. Among those trapped in Gaza due to the closure of Rafah are medical patients referred for treatment outside the territory.

The Israeli army destroyed Gaza’s airport during the second intifada and bars Palestinians in the coastal enclave from building a port.

Except for Rafah, Israel controls every entry and exit point with Gaza, but in recent years, the US-backed, Israel-allied Egyptian military regime has taken extreme measures to reinforce Israel’s siege of Gaza, including the mass demolition of thousands of Egyptian family homes along the border.

Gisha, an Israeli human rights group that monitors Israel’s siege on the coastal enclave, said that even when Rafah is open, crossing can be difficult and dangerous.

The opening of Rafah is not a solution, Palestinian human rights groups said, adding that Gaza residents should be able “leave and return to it whenever they want.”

Israeli restrictions on the entry of goods into Gaza have been especially severe since Israel’s 11-day assault on the Strip in May.

COGAT, the bureaucratic arm of Israel’s military occupation, announced it would ease restrictions on certain imports into Gaza, including new vehicles and equipment, and that it would issue more permits for traders to enter Israel.

But the occupation authority repeated previous assertions that any easings would be conditioned on whether Palestinian factions resist against continued Israeli violence – an explicit acknowledgment of collective punishment, a violation of the Fourth Geneva Convention.

COGAT also stated that ​​permits will only be issued to people who have recovered from a coronavirus infection or who have been vaccinated.

Only around 7 percent of Gaza’s 2.1 million residents have received a vaccination against COVID-19, as Israel refuses to provide vaccines to Palestinians in violation of its legal obligations as the occupying power.

The US has donated 500,000 vaccine doses to the West Bank and Gaza where coronavirus infections are rife.

While that will undoubtedly be welcome to recipients, it follows the longstanding pattern of the so-called international community of relieving Israel of its responsibilities rather than holding it accountable.

Qatari drip-feed

Meanwhile, a deal was reached between Qatar and the United Nations last week to transfer Qatari aid to Gaza.

Some 100,000 Palestinian families in Gaza will each receive $100 each month beginning September.

Previously delivered as cash transfers, this will “stop completely,” Tel Aviv daily Haaretz reported.

Instead, the funds will be transferred from Qatar to a UN bank account in New York, then to banks in the occupied West Bank city of Ramallah, and finally to their branches in the Gaza Strip.

Palestinians in the Strip will receive cards from the UN World Food Program to access the funds. Israeli officials will approve the list of those eligible for aid, tightening the occupying power’s effective veto over who may receive basic humanitarian assistance.

This appears to be another instance of the UN colluding in Israel’s illegal blockade and collective punishment of the population in Gaza, as the world body has done since 2014 in the context of the so-called Gaza Reconstruction Mechanism.

Israeli defense minister Benny Gantz thanked Qatari officials for accommodating Israel’s new rules regarding cash transfers to Gaza.

Along with the UN, Qatar too is relieving Israel of its responsibilities as the occupying power by keeping impoverished families in Gaza on a drip-feed and colluding in maintaining Israel’s tight control over Palestinian lives.

Tamara Nassar is an assistant editor at The Electronic Intifada